I WAS happily stirring rice last weekend for my version of risotto when I started thinking about wine with food. No apologies if I’ve said this before … I love wine, I love food, I love wine with food. I love cooking with wine.
It’s thanks to my favourite combo that I have a wine glass figure rather than an hourglass figure.
In my glass was The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fiano 2014 (£6.99 until November 24) and I was daydreaming that its lovely how cooking with wine can turn a simple dish into something magical.
If you like food and wine, and don’t know where to start when matching one to the other, a good rule of thumb is to think where the wine comes from. Well, it works for Old World wines such as those from France, Spain, Italy. They’ve been produced by local people for local drinking with their local foods.
It doesn’t take a genius then to think ah, I know, Italian red wine for pasta and pizza; a red Burgundy with French classics. I’m not a genius, and that’s how I think.
I’m not a food and wine pairing expert; I just go with the flow, follow my instinct (and read lots of books and websites!)
Back to my fiano. Its an Italian white, and the Co-op’s wine comes from Campania where vines grow under the influence of the Mediterranean.
Right I thought, I’ll slosh some wine into the pan (and my glass too) with the arborio rice and cook it out before throwing in stock.
I’d already fried onions, green pepper, garlic, and cubed pancetta in the pan, then tipped out before adding the rice. I popped a handful of frozen peas into the still-hot veg so they’d warm through.
When the rice was almost done I added chicken which had been poached separately in stock and a glass of fiano wine, and then I tumbled in raw king prawns. The vegetables went back in the pan to warm through with a good handful of chopped parsley and basil.
The wine added a good fruity citrus bite to each mouthful; and in a glass it had floral hums, a breeze of herb and the same citrus reflections. Whether this was risotto or paella I don’t really know .. but it was fun making it up as I went along!
Taking a punt on regional food helps when you don’t know much about a wine.
Take Terreforts de Madiran 2003 (£6.50, Tesco) and Cîmes Pirenèus Madiran 2010 (currently £39 a case, which is 50% off at www.tesco.com). At the heart of most Madiran wines is the tannat grape and it is often blended with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.
Tannat is high in tannins and is best with a bit of aging to soften the wines. Blackberries, tobacco and spices prevailed in both of my wines, which were blends of tannat, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon.
I always say cook with a wine you’d be happy to drink and I glugged a glassful of the Terreforts into a pan with cubed and seared beef, before adding stock and veg. I popped in the oven.
It could have been French rustic .. but it was my version of rustic. The wine in the glass met its match on the plate and warmed and glowed with a nod of approval.
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Published in the saturday extra magazine November 7, 2015